B.C. Attorney General David Eby introduces former NDP cabinet minister Joy MacPhail as chair of the ICBC board, Aug. 19, 2018. (B.C. government)

B.C. VIEWS: How to get the best deal on your ICBC car insurance

ICBC slowly being dragged into the 21st century

A U.S. insurance company is running amusing TV ads where a 1970s-era couple call up a page on the “information superhighway.” When it finally loads, all they get is a phone number.

In another scene, they jump in their AMC Gremlin and head out to renew their car insurance. “Should be back in two hours,” the mullet-haired driver says on his CB radio.

I was reminded of these commercials while discussing with Attorney General David Eby the latest evolution of our great 1970s public utility, the Insurance Corporation of B.C. The topic was competition for collision and other optional coverage, and how that works – or doesn’t work.

Eby began by denying there is any obstacle for private insurers to compete for optional coverage, which he has argued is the main cause of big increases being faced by new drivers. Private insurers insist there is, and by the end of our chat, Eby was inclined to agree.

Eby’s overhaul of ICBC rates took effect in September, after he vowed to douse the “dumpster fire” of billion-dollar deficits. Contrary to political claims, this is no longer inflated by government scooping revenues. That ended a few years ago, as deficits ballooned due to soaring crash rates, injury awards and legal costs. Basic rates are going up as much as 12 per cent for new drivers, and there are new procedures you’ll face when you go to renew your insurance.

I’ll explain the competition problem by describing how to shop around to see if you can get a better deal on optional coverage than ICBC offers. First, do a web search for “ICBC driver abstract,” to find where you can have your driving history and claims record emailed to you.

If you don’t use a computer, you can call 1-800-663-3051 and have it mailed or faxed to you. (Eby repeatedly told me it’s easy to fax your driver record to an insurance company to get a quote. I reminded him that faxes are no longer an option for most of us.)

RELATED: New drivers paying most for optional insurance, Eby says

RELATED: Drivers can check their ICBC rate with online calculator

You can also have the “abstract” emailed directly from ICBC to a private insurer, if you can find one. Again, the “information superhighway” produces a few search results, but as the Insurance Bureau of Canada reports, there are only a couple of private companies offering meaningful competition in B.C.

Bureau vice-president Aaron Sutherland explained how it looks from an insurance broker’s point of view. Customer walks in, asks for a quote on optional coverage. Chances are he doesn’t have a copy of his driving record in hand, and unlike other provinces, ICBC doesn’t allow competitors to get it directly. Customer either gets coverage on faith, or is asked to retrieve the record and send it in.

The government monopoly controls not only driving records, but geographical accident data, which means private insurers are often steering blindfolded as they take on new customers.

From the driver’s point of view, there aren’t going to be enormous savings here, especially since so few companies attempt to compete with ICBC on unfair terms. Eby assured me that he is concerned about this, and willing to help. But he added that no “policy work” has been done yet.

Sutherland wrote to Eby a year ago, offering to have member companies pay a fee for direct access to ICBC driver information. When I asked him about it, Eby had forgotten about the letter.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureICBC

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Here are Kitimat’s 10 worst streets and intersections for collisions

A look at the top 10 roads and intersections for crash numbers in Kitimat.

Pretium Resources reports fatality at Brucejack mine

The isolated incident occurred last Friday, and the employee passed away on Sunday in hospital.

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

“How many more years is this going to continue?”: Kitimat resident wants better District response to front yard sinkholes

The sinkholes are caused by an aging storm sewer, which the District says they are working to fix.

In Our Valley: Louise Barbetti

Louise Barbetti has spent her life dedicated to the welfare of the Haisla students and community.

B.C. records 146 new COVID-19 cases through long weekend

More that 28 people tested positive for the virus each day since Friday

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

B.C. to allow customers to buy cannabis online for in-store pickup at private shops

Age verification will still be required inside the store

30% of British Columbians would ‘wait and see’ before taking COVID vaccine: poll

Some are concerned about side effects, while others don’t think the virus is a big deal

What exactly is ‘old growth’ B.C. forest, and how much is protected?

Forests minister Doug Donaldson doesn’t support ‘moratorium’

Don’t leave your hand sanitizer in the sun and other tips to stay COVID safe this summer

Being mindful of staying outside and keeping hand sanitizer, sunscreen out of the sun recommended

Canadians can travel to Hawaii in September; no quarantine with negative COVID test

Travellers will be required to pay for their own tests prior to arriving

Anonymous letters tell Vancouver Island family their kids are too loud

Letter said the noise of kids playing in Parksville backyard is ‘unbearable’

Most Read